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[106] generation of New England Puritans found a tongue at last in this late-born son of theirs. The determining mood of his best poems, from boyhood to old age, was precisely that thought of transiency, “the eternal flow of things,” which colored the imaginations of the first colonists. This is the central motive of Thanatopsis, to a Waterfowl, the Rivulet, a forest Hymn, an evening Revery, the crowded Street, the flood of years. All of these tell the same story of endless change and of endless abiding, of varying eddies in the same mighty stream of human existence. Bryant faced the thought as calmly, as majestically, at seventeen as when he wrote The flood of years at eighty-two. He is a master of description, though he has slight gift for narrative or drama, and he rarely sounds the clear lyric note. But everywhere in his verse there is that cold purity of the winter hills in Western Massachusetts, something austere and elemental which reaches kindred spirits below the surface on which intellect and passion have their play, something more primitive, indeed, than human intellect or passion and belonging to another mode of being, something “rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun.”

A picture of the Knickerbocker era is not complete

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